I've spent years now encouraging people to have difficult conversations, to talk about the things that are bothering them and yet, remain unspoken. I've read the research showing that couples who argue effectively, instead of staying quiet and avoiding conflict are ten times more likely to have a happy relationship.
In that spirit, I want to talk about something that really, really bothers me: zippers down my back.
There are many reasons to complain about women's clothing, particularly in reference to the ways that female clothing differs from men's. First, and most obviously, women have been objectified for centuries and their clothing has reflected this, even when designed and created by women. Our clothing is often unnecessarily revealing, for example. Why on earth would a woman want a swimsuit that comes off when we're swimming, for example? Many swimsuits only stay on our bodies if we sit prettily in them instead of using them for their stated purpose.
Then, there's the idiocy of pantyhose. Expensive, fragile, difficult for the differently able to put on, and yet some workplaces still insist that nylons are necessary because a woman's bare legs are offensive. Don't get me started on stiletto heels. A third of women who wear them have fallen at some point, and the unnatural position of the foot in heels can cause permanent damage to the tendons, as well as nerve damage.
What's more: pockets. Men have had functional pockets since at least the 1600s while women had to carry purses instead. A study done in 2018 found that the pockets in women's jeans are half as long as the pockets in men's' jeans and more than six percent narrower. In response, Ben Barry of the Ryerson School of Fashion told CTVNews that "the size difference in pockets perpetuates and reinforces gender inequality and is a manifestation of patriarchy."
I could go on, of course. The sizes aren't consistent. Women have more options, but our clothes tend to be of lower quality and more expensive than men's. All of these issues are important and have been discussed by experts in the field.
I, however, want to focus on clothing that zips up from the back. Why is society still making this and why are we still buying it?
I would love to watch some men throw a dress over their heads and then try to zip it all the way up to their necks. There are hundreds of products on sale that promise to help you put your clothing on. And the Today Show offered a simple piece of advice for those times when you're going through an "existential crisis" because no matter how much you contort your body, "the zipper pull is just out of reach." Their solution is to use a safety pin and a length of ribbon; my solution is to boycott dresses that have zippers in the back.
After all, clothing manufacturers often don't even bother to install a high-quality zipper that requires only light tug to move gracefully up your back. I'm not sure why they call them zippers at all. They don't zip. You're reaching your arm back behind you with all the desperation of a murder victim who's just been stabbed, you finally get the zipper to move and it then gets snagged on a piece of fabric.
It's mind boggling to think that people are still dealing with this lunacy. We can build self-driving cars and reusable rockets, but we can't figure out how to make zippers work properly?
If a clothing designer is going to put a bad zipper in a piece of clothing, better be sure it's not in the back. But since we're on subject, why oh why is it in the back in the first place? There are four sides to my body and three of them are absolutely perfect for seeing a zipper, getting a good grip on it, and zipping it up. So why? Why, in the name of all that is holy, do clothes makers insist on putting the zipper on the one side of my body that I can't see and can't reach without engaging in extreme yoga?
To me, this is a feminist issue. Going back through history, it's clear that women were meant to remain disadvantaged and to require assistance when going about the regular tasks of living.
Do men have zippers and buttons on the backs of their clothing? Is there a single piece of men's clothing that puts the zipper in the back? No! It's only women whose clothing requires them to have help in order to get dressed. It's a relic of age-old discrimination against single women and a punishment for those who try to live independently.
Historically, females were supposed to move directly from our parents' house to our husbands. So, there was always supposed to be someone there to yank up that zipper.
Here's an idea: let's start a zipper revolution. Boycott the back zipper. Refuse to buy that dress or top or jumpsuit unless the zipper is located in a place that doesn't require a chiropractor visit to reach it.
Zippers on the side are welcome. Buttons in the front are wonderful. Wrap dresses are cool by me. But let's end the tyranny of the back zipper once and for all.


Celeste Headlee